Some of my favorite and most vivid boyhood memories are bodysurfing frigid midwinter shore break in Monterey Bay, Calif. Up before sunup, my best friend and I would pull on spring suits over our full suits, grab our squid lids and Churchills, and jog down the long staircase to Beer Can Beach, where offshore whispers peeled the tops off glassy head-high closeouts. Deep in the fog, we were kids in black neoprene swimming in a corrugated sheet of gray water, sliding into green barrel after green barrel.
Bodysurfing was accessible, simple and represented a singular class of fun. That sentiment, it turns out, is universal, and the otherworldly visuals associated with gliding on oceanic waves of energy is the topic of a truly one-of-a-kind coffee table book, "The Plight of the Torpedo People."
Published by T. Adler Books, this recently released 100-page gem is the hardcover companion to pro surfer Keith Malloy's 2011 award-winning documentary, "Come Hell or High Water." Both Malloy's 40-minute cinematic homage and this collection of color and black-and-white shots, principally by photographer Chris Burkard, shed light on a rare breed of wave riders who are much more than shoulder-dwellers living off the scraps of their board-riding brethren.
"I learned a lot on how each bodysurfer really has their own style," Burkard told XGames.com. "It was just amazing watching guys like Mark Cunningham, Mike Stewart, Chris Kalima and Durdam Rocherelle and use their bodies, arms and legs to position themselves in the wave. With the subtlest of movements they would speed up or slow down and really were experts at bodysurfing. After hours of watching them, I definitely had a few new things to try when I got back home in the water."
Complementing the imagery of Burkard and others, the book calls on a few guest editors for their thoughts on bodysurfing. While Honolulu's John R.K. Clark takes us back to the "surf stoke of the early Polynesians," Northern California's Judith Sheridan writes about "having your worldview anchored chin-high in the water and framed by the sweep of the wave on every ride."
For Malloy -- who competed on the ASP World Tour in 2000 -- bodysurfing has been a meditative escape from a career in pro surfing.
"It's a giant step away from competitive surfing," Malloy told XGames.com. "Body surfing has been my way of getting back to the basics, getting back to the way I felt as a kid gliding through that green pocket of a wave."